After a week on his “preplanned” vacation that started just after his chief writer Blake Neff was outed and then ousted for pseudonymously posting all sorts of bigoted and misogynistic content online, Tucker Carlson returned and, in true Trumpist fashion, tried to turn the page—by creating a new controversy to change the subject by doxxing a New York Times reporter. Question: Who announces on a Monday he’s off for a “preplanned’ vacation starting that Tuesday. Answer: An embattled Fox News star, just like Laura Ingraham did after she made fun of Parkland survivor David Hogg or Sean Hannity after doubling down on Seth Rich or Judge Box of Wine after making bigoted anti-Muslim comments about Ilhan Omar. Or Bill O’Reilly a few times.
Speaking of things staying the same at Fox, just as the frozen fish heir was off from his week fishing, his name came up in a new sexual assault and harassment lawsuit filed by Fox news employee Jennifer Eckhart and regular guest Cathy Areu. In the lawsuit, Areu alleges that “Mr. Carlson, hardly making any effort to hide his intentions, began telling Ms. Areu that he would be alone in New York City that night, and specifically said that he would be staying alone in his hotel room without any wife or kids.” When Areu declined to meet him there, the suit continues, her appearances on his show all but stopped. Fox says that a “comprehensive independent investigation” had “determined that all of Cathy Areu’s claims against FOX News, including its management as well as" Carlson and other network personalities “are false, patently frivolous and utterly devoid of any merit.”
This isn’t the first dance, or the second, or the third from the network that paid millions to help settle claims against Bill O’Reilly and $45 million more for claims against Roger Ailes. Those two are gone, but Carlson was back on the air this week, doing what he could do to present himself, once again, as the real victim. He said nothing about the sexual harassment allegations on his first night back, or about his Black colleagues’ concerns, on a call with company brass, about a “white supremacist cell” inside the news network. He didn’t reflect at all about how he ended up with a racist woman-hater as his chief writer. Instead he asked, “Why is The New York Times doing a story on the location of my family’s house? Well, you know why. To hurt us, to injure my wife and kids so that I will shut up and stop disagreeing with them. They believe in force. We’ve learned that.”
It’s unclear what story Tucker was referring to. It’s possible that this was prompted by the frozen fish heir’s selling of his $3.95 million D.C. home, a story that was covered in Variety. Stories about rich celebrities selling their homes are pretty common and almost never tied to politics, but according to Carlson this was some kind of deep state New York Times plot that he was exposing. Carlson also aired the journalist’s photo, calling him a “political activist.”
Later Tucker pondered, "What if we published the home address of every one of the soulless, robot editors at the New York Times, who assigned and managed this incitement of violence against my family?" That incitement of violence doesn’t actually exist, and the paper of record was forced to say that “While we do not confirm what may or may not publish in future editions, the Times has not and does not plan to expose any residence of Tucker Carlson’s, which Carlson was aware of before tonight’s broadcast.”
But Carlson’s own incitement absolutely does exist. Moments after he aired a photo of the freelance reporter he claimed would be putting his family’s safety in danger, a sea of conservative twitter accounts really did doxx that reporter, with a torrent of harassment following and some accounts posting his address and other personal information.
Of course, Tucker knew the New York Times wasn’t going to doxx him. That’s not what the New York Times does, but it is something that happens at lesser, far-right publications like the Daily Caller, founded by Carlson, which doxxed the people behind Sleeping Giants.
But there is no place for reason or thought when there's an outrage mob to join, which is exactly what right-wing Twitter did, with a little help from the Trump administration, including acting Deputy Homeland Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, who tweeted out his support for Tucker’s completely unfounded New York Times allegation.
This was never about what would actually happen; this was never about the truth; this was always about distraction and bullying—two things that Tucker Carlson excels in. This is the first page of the Trumpist playbook: Attack. Attack. Attack. Never defend.
So instead of responding to the new allegations against him, Carlson invented an enemy. He couldn’t attack the women, because that would be too obvious, but before denying things the first move is always to chip away at the foundation of truth and attack the media. Of course, Carlson is an elite member of the media, but that’s something his fan base has managed to ignore along with lots of other inconvenient facts.
Targeting people is what Fox News opinion hosts do. Excite and activate the base. Give them someone to blame and something to hate. And tough luck if you’re chosen as the scapegoat. This is going to end in tears, or maybe something worse.